A structure function analysis of VST-COSMOS AGN

D. De Cicco, F. E. Bauer, M. Paolillo, P. Sánchez-Sáez, W. N. Brandt, F. Vagnetti, G. Pignata, M. Radovich, M. Vaccari

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7 Scopus citations


Context. We present our sixth work in a series dedicated to variability studies of active galactic nuclei (AGN), based on the survey of the COSMOS field by the VLT Survey Telescope (VST). Its 54 r-band visits over 3.3 yr and single-visit depth of 24.6 r-band mag make this dataset a valuable scaled-down version that can help forecast the performance of the Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST). Aims. This work is centered on the analysis of the structure function (SF) of VST-COSMOS AGN, investigating possible differences in its shape and slope related to how the AGN were selected, and explores possible connections between the AGN ensemble variability and the black-hole mass, accretion rate, bolometric luminosity, redshift, and obscuration of the source. Given its features, our dataset opens up the exploration of samples ∼2 mag fainter than most literature to date. Methods. We identified several samples of AGN "677 in total "obtained through a variety of selection techniques partly overlapping. Our analysis compares the results for the various samples. We split each sample in two based on the median of the physical property of interest, and analyzed the differences in the SF shape and slope, and their possible causes. Results. While the SF shape does not change with depth, it is highly affected by the type of AGN (unobscured or obscured) included in the sample. Where a linear region can be identified, we find that the variability amplitude is anticorrelated to the accretion rate and bolometric luminosity, consistent with previous literature on the topic, while no dependence on black-hole mass emerges from this study. With its longer baseline and denser and more regular sampling, the LSST will allow for an improved characterization of the SF and its dependencies on the mentioned physical properties over much larger AGN samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA117
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - Aug 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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